All-Merciful Savoiur

St Benedict tells those under his Rule that the loftier sources of monastic wisdom are found by looking East (RB 73). So yesterday, as if immersed in a scene of the wonderful film Остров (The Island), I rose before dawn in order to board an early morning ferry in thick fog to cross to Vashon-Maury Island where I met with Abbot Tryphon of All-Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery. Abbot Tryphon (pronounced tree-fon) is a delightful and learned Orthodox priest who was raised Norwegian Lutheran, studied and practiced psychology in Berkeley during its heyday, and after a spiritual quest that took him to Zen Buddhist monasteries, a Camaldolese hermitage, and beyond, found himself called to Orthodox monastic life which he has called his own for three decades twenty of which on Vashon Island where he and two other monastics cultivate a life of prayer. In an office filled with Norwegian viking boats, crosses from around the Orthodox world each with a fascinating story, and myriad books we conversed as we warmed ourselves with coffee roasted at the monastery the sale of which supports their life. I learned about the unique Orthodox method of inculturation among the Aleut (of Alaska), reflected together on the state of and hope building in the Church, liturgies, the spiritual life, Pope Francis, and more. I was treated to a tasty lunch including Ethiopian ጎመን (gomen) for which we were joined by an islander friend of the monastery, a Catholic landscaper who raises dairy goats and shares a love of icons. The beautiful chapel, reminiscent of a Norwegian stave church from the exterior though topped with the characteristic blue onion dome typical of the Russian churches of Sergiev Posad, was filled with beautiful icons including those those of the iconostasis commissioned for the chapel. Though the dense fog which caused all ferries to run late reminded me more of Bergen than the eastern Mediterranean, being on the island and my long-bearded interlocutor brought me back to the experience I had of reading Kyriacos Markides’ The Mountain of Silence while on retreat this spring at Holy Cross Abbey. After another delightful conversation with Fr Tryphon as he drove me back to the dock—though I felt I should have done him the honor of being his chauffeur rather than the other way around—I waited in the mist for the ferry wondering whether this island, called by locals ‘The Heart of the Sound,’ should rather more appropriately be called ‘The Soul of the Sound.’ But be assured that this is just the first of many forthcoming posts about Vashon-Maury Island.

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